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From the staff of the Tampa Bay Times

Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn talks up the Rays, RNC in Tallahassee speech



Whether he was foreshadowing things to come or just wishfully thinking, Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn said today that he was "lucky enough to be mayor of the 55th largest city in the country and more, importantly, home to the Tampa Bay Rays."

One problem with that: the Rays are based in St. Petersburg, not Tampa. After the speech today in Tallahassee, we asked Buckhorn to clarify his comment about the Rays, who recently earned a playoff spot after winning wild card games.

"We're all Rays fans at this point," he said. "They may physically reside in St. Petersburg, at least for a little while, but we all share in their success and I consider myself to be their mayor just as Bill Foster considers himself to be their mayor."

"At least for awhile"? Is that more foreshadowing or wishful thinking?

Buckhorn famously said he didn't want to be the boyfriend in the divorce between Foster, and the Rays, who would like permission to move their home stadium to a location more convenient to the population center in Tampa. He made it clear today he is still waiting in the wings to make his move.

"We can't talk until the city of St. Pete and the Rays come to some agreement," he said. "I'm frustrated and I'm sure a lot of people are frustrated that there has been no movement on that. We are no different a position than we were six months ago. That has to take place. As good as the Rays are, as much as the bay area loves the Rays, it's not going to work in St. Petersburg."

Buckhorn was in Tallahassee to speak at the monthly meeting of the Economic Club of Florida about the city's success hosting the Republican National Convention last year, Super Bowls and other major events.

He talked about fighting to win the mayoral election in 2011 and focusing each day on making the city better for his two young daughters. His vision is to make Tampa more welcoming for young professionals of diverse backgrounds and says the city is emerging as a model for the rest of the state coming out of the recession.

A proud Democrat, he was careful not to openly criticize any particular elected officials from Florida during his speech. But he lamented the "short-term, stupid politics" of today and said important issues are being overlooked like immigration reform.

Afterward, however, he answered our questions about Medicaid expansion by saying he wished Gov. Rick Scott had taken advantage of his veto power to persuade House Republicans to support a plan to use federal money to provide insurance for roughly 1 million poor Floridians.

"I think he needed to use his pulpit, and I think he needed to use the powers of his office to get that implemented," Buckhorn said.

[Last modified: Friday, October 4, 2013 3:43pm]


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